Thursday, April 30, 2009

High End Baits- Make you a better fisherman?

Do Lucky Craft, Mega Bass, Team Diawa and other high end Japanese baits make one a better bass fisherman?

In my opinion, yes. No doubt about it.

They may be a status symbol for some, overpriced example of the inflation in the price of fishing tackle to others. Try and throw a couple of these lures in the appropriate places at the appropriate times. Your opinion on whether any lure is worth 15$+ may change quickly.

In terms of inflation, a Rapala husky jerk was 5$ 20 years ago. By inflated measures it should cost more than it does today.

Most people who successfully throw higher end lures use heavier line to protect their investment from the pike family as well as hangups. Even easier to retrieve 15$baits from a boat while fishing.

Why are they more effective?

Attention to detail. You get the feeling that Japanese engineers really are looking to engineer the most fish catching lure. Some of their ideas are wacky, like the Gatta X Buggy(above) or Xpod. Japanese culture breeds a very unique form of perfectionism. The Japanese love to fish and have fondness for creating bio mechanical things.

But a Lucky Craft lure is usually more than just a life like finish and profile. Internal weight transfer systems allow extemely longs casts. This keeps your lure in the strike zone longer in the case of crankbaits. In the case of stream angler, long casts keep big bass unwary of your approach. Fine hooks mean a great hookup percentage as well. The baits cast well into the wind. The action on some baits simply cannot be reproduced elsewhere. IE, Splashtail 90's vrooping and fwapping sounds when it's twin ball bearing props rip through the water. All topwaters are not the same all the time. The right noise and profile produces strikes when others may not.

Does all this mean if you go out and buy some Lucky Craft or Megabass lures today, you're automatically a better fisherman? No, first one has to match the right lure with the right place and situation. But, by mistake you'll catch fish on these lures. The learning process begins.

It can ultimately be said you still have to find the fish seasonally. To consistently catch nice smallmouth bass you need to get in close and tight to cover and obstructions. It's true LC's do neither for you.

The test is, do you catch more/better fish since throwing high end baits? The answer many times is 'yes'. Otherwise, they wouldn't be getting gobbled up at those prices (by good anglers). A 10% more fish difference is still a difference. For me, Lucky Craft has increased the learning curve if just by confidence alone.

If you think high end baits don't help you catch more fish, feel free to donate.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What has it got in its pocketses? Spring version.

Here's most of the contents of my spring stream fishing vest (clicky-clicky for blow up):

Most important item in the fishing vest:

Impending spawn and soon to follow topwater season have me switching out the old guard and bringing in the gunslingers:

Jerkbaits, odd colors, seldom thrown baits, and duplicate crankbaits are mothballed:

On their way in:

Add to the above waterproof camera, hat, polarized sunglasses and a couple of snacks.

Some people like to travel lighter. I don't regret carrying what I do. Each thing has it's valued uses. Except maybe the senkos and mono. I do have to add some weight to the back of the vest for counterbalance.

As Summer approaches and the crankbait bite goes away, the crankbaits get mostly rotated out.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Color versus Cadence

Anglers often 1st talk about lure colors when they want to catch a bass. It is understandable to look for the simple reason to get a fish to strike. What I find under conversed on all the best forums is how to work a lure.

For many lures a visible color such as white allow an angler to see the action imparted by rod movements. Then when a strike happens, you can often see what triggered a strike.

The fish see your bait on every cast, without the data of knowing how the bass react to your lure, you simply may not catch as many of them.

Do they flee? Follow? Strike on fleeing attempts? When a lure bumps obstruction? Disinterest despite full view? Site fishing can be some of the most educational fishing you can have. No wonder anglers like their bass boat decks. It's why I like high banks to fish from.

Color matters in this case in how you can see it and watch the fish react to your puppet strings. I strongly believe cadence is more important than color.

Dragging a tube not getting you bit? Work it like a jerkbait, or crank it slowly through the middle of the water column. Most moving baits like crankbaits, spinnerbaits are a lot more effective when you bounce and drag them off obstructions and nick the bottom.

Anticipating where a bass may hold and casting not to the point where he sits, but a point where he will react to some erratic movement in your bait.

Ever played yarn with a kitten? Eventually they grow bored of playing kill the yarn, but partially flee it behind something and they get reactivated. Twitch, twitch, pause works awfully well doesn't it? Sometimes just letting it sit.

Like kittens, bass have moods. Put yourself in position to see them, record their reactions on many different days. You'll do yourself a favor when you fish for what you cannot see.

Spro Swimbait for Smallmouth Bass?

Picked up one of these 4" Spro slow sinking swimbaits to fish in those large featureless pools for big smallies. Checked the action in a pond. Sinks slightly faster than advertised, has a sweet swimming action, rises a bit too much for my tastes, would also make a great wake bait.Going to add a suspend dot or two to the nose to get it to stay down. We'll see. Excited about this lure.

Going to throw it on my medium 6'8" spinning rod even though at about an ounce it is overweighted. It lands like a brick.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dog Walk Pig 4/22

Took Wendy out for a trot along a small creek for about an hour and a half this afternoon. By small, I mean less than 20cfs in Spring. She loves this kind of thing. Woods aren't too prickely or nasty yet. Brought my rod, a couple tubes with bright red tails, spinnerbait, and a crankbait.

Got this 14.5" fish on a RC LC 1.5 below a kind of dam. Trying to take more interesting shots:

Moved up to a rip rap area. This spot is key to this whole stretch being worth fishing. It is a 60-70 feet of broken sidewalk dumped in the creek to prevent bank erosion on the adjacent farmland. The rip rap creates homes for crawdads and smallmouth bass to hide as well as a couple slack portions of the pool that are prefect for spawning (we are getting closer). Home, depth, food, beds, shade. Perfect.

Wendy didn't like the uneven rock, so for once, didn't jump right in the creek. I made the world's worst cast ever over the top of a couple pricker branches that extended over the slack corner. My tube got immediately struck. Resulting in this embarrassing mess:

Managed to get the line to snap. Poor smallmouth has a tube stuck in his mouth. Uff. Next cast I skip the tube under the branches and hit another 15"er.

Working my tube back next to current up in the mid water column when a big fish jets out from under a sidewalk panel and nails my tube 4-5' from me! What a fight! Plucked the monster out of the water. Wendy was impressed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Indiana Smallmouth Fishing/Conservation Clinic April 25th Terre Haute, IN

I'll be giving a INSA smallmouth bass presentation at the Gander Mountain in Terre Haute, Indiana this Saturday, April 25th from 10am-11:30am. Come chat about stream smallmouth fishing in the state of Indiana. Or for those of you close in Illinois, the information applies to you as well.

I'll have some of the Indiana Smallmouth Alliance tackle packs for anyone who'd like to sign up. Topics will be smallmouth conservation issues in Indiana, what is the INSA, reading water, seasonal smallmouth patterns.

Basically, get everyone in the mood to fish hard.Free of charge. Might have some extra buzzbaits along with....

See you all there Saturday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blue Bells, Morels, and Smallmouth 4/20

Today was forecasted a high of 55, rain intermittent and thunderstorms. A cold front. Except the overnight low was 53. Time to do a wade. The warm up plus overnight warm temps and bad weather should have the smallies moving about. Only thing missing was water clarity info. It's been about 2 weeks since I've been out to this particular river and its been running high and getting pretty regular rain.

If the water was stained I'd throw chatterbaits and big crankbaits. Luckily, clarity was no problem. Drizzle and grayness made it hard for me to see my yellow power pro against the water. I worked a tube in some eddies, rewarded with 9 bass from dink to 15" in the first few hours in the AM.

I moved fast and caught a couple more before I finally missed a fish on the tube jig. I fish very fast when I know a stream or know fish are keying on riffles, for example. Target the high percentage areas until the time of year where bass are everywhere in the stream. Not quite yet. Getting there.

I was walking up to a large pool I wanted to fish. Disheartened to think how slow I would have to fish that tube in the large pool. I hadn't had a sniff on crankbaits, chatterbaits, jekbaits, or flukes. I noticed a Morel mushroom sticking out of the ground in front of me. I stopped paying attention to fishing. An hour or two later I had found about 9 Mushrooms ranging from tiny to about 4". The drizzle stopped and the sun came out.

I tried on a chart/white spinnerbait, slowly dragging it across the bottom letting it nick everything. A huge fish made play for it right in my eyesight. I yanked the bait away trying to set the hook. The bass had whiffed. Turning point. The gold blades were really catching sun. I started catching smallies on the spinnerbait. The 17.25" above came right in heavy current.

Not far up I caught this 17" bass in a spot I never catch any fish. I was on to something dragging the spinnerbait slowly across the bottom, bumping, bumping. I have heard about this technique, but never applied it until today.

This 17.75" Smallmouth was also in a spot I don't usually catch anything:

This 18"er fell as I let the spinnerbait fall to the bottom in 5' of water right near shore. Slowly brought it in banging roots, just as I was about to pull the bait up, Smack! Smallmouth fought hard. The rain was falling pretty good at this point.

Will be interesting to see how the dragging spinnerbaits works. I've always tried to impart too much action or pulled them in too fast. Bass like to attack bait fish that foolishly knock into things I guess.

Caught 6 or 7 dinks. Looks like they are on the verge of waking up for the year.

20 SMB (18, 17.75", 17.25", 17", 2-15") 1 rock bass

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back for another look 4/18

Sometimes initial success or failure can lead me to incorrectly believe a stream or river fishes a certain way. I returned to creek 1 from April 12th today. Creek 1 is a shallow dynamic stream with plenty of twists and turns. It lined by wooded hills, shale banks, bedrock bottoms, and spectacular collection of different rock. Sadly I know little about them. Have to change that at some point.

Got going about 9am and finally started catching fish at 10:30-11:00. Not too much action and no real size, now I don't know what to think. Flukes, tubes, and crankbaits.

Nice rock outcroppings. Saw a turkey up near the top on the left:

Here is the largest deepest pool I ran across that should have been filled with fish or lacking that a fish. Nada

I'll hit it again with low water and see what topwater has to say about this creek's smallmouth bass numbers. Water was almost crystal clear.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ditchpigs: Who put those Greenies in there?

Wendy, Jim, and I fished a series of ponds and ditches this afternoon. The ditch we caught our fish in fished pretty slow with 6-8" visibility. Most fish were caught on shad rattle traps.

Jim's first:


My last 17.5" fish was a heffer:

Wendy is worn out from chasing geese off their nests, swimming and climbing out car windows to get back to the fun.

Jim got another heffer right after I left, then hunted up a pound and a half of Morrels. He always finds great places to fish.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I love fishing the Superfluke

One of the most exciting lures to fish in the river for smallmouth bass is the Zoom Superfluke style soft plastic jerkbait. They cast a mile, splash softly, and smallmouth thump them. I'll admit, the fluke is an off and on bait. My best times are usually spring and late fall. Best used when bass want something crippled, ie not a reaction bait. I do often check in the summer to see if its on too.

I fish this bait perpendicular to the current and let it drift, flutter, and die. When the current is just right the bait will glide along sideways like a flustered dying minnow. Just toss it into the fast current near a seam and fish will dart out and nail it. Drift the fluke under rocks an logs. You often don't need to do too much more than reel in slack.

I rig the 5" Zoom Superfluke on a weighted EWG in the 4/0 range. If I am out of weighted hooks some finishing nails slid into the front of the fluke works well. Without weight, the fluke will sink painfully slow. It won't get down in the strike zone with faster current in Spring.

At low summertime flow, less or no weight is required. Often walking the dog with the fluke is what works. Don't be afraid to try deadsticking on touchdown either.

Fishing the fluke is a feel thing. The fluke must be rigged correctly on the hook or it will twirl when you jerk the bait. To walk the dog with a fluke, alternate a slight jerk with cranking in the line, but not both at once. I like bright white fluke so I can see the bait work. This clues me in to what bass want so I can duplicate the action all day.

Flukes can be an excellent topwater baits jerking them and sliding them across the surface in summer can be great fun. Many anglers have a fluke rigged in case a fish swings and misses on a topwater. A timely quick pitch of the fluke in the general area can often lead to a nice catch.

I immediately set the hook on a fluke bite. With sharp hooks, the hookup % should be pretty high. Unfortunately, on some days the fish just mouth the bait. On these less aggressive days, you can really struggle to hook bass. I believe the bass are trying to turn the bait rather than just crushing it like in Spring.

One downside of the fluke is they are one of the riggiest lures you will use. Double handling sometimes will drive you crazy as your fluke slides down the hook on every cast or a fish breaks the bait in two after one fish. There are different hooks out there that hold the plastic on better. For cost effectiveness I fish the Wally world EWG weighted hooks and am pretty pleased.

Another caution is for spinning reel folk. The fluke is often not a tight line technique due to the bait drifting with little tension. This can mean your line goes on the spool loosely. When the next cast is one you put elbow grease into, coils of loose line may fly off and create a birds nest. Eye your spool each time before you let loose a cast. Close the bail by hand.

Good luck and enjoy those crushers mawing down on your hapless bait!

Monday, April 13, 2009

High water? No problem. 4/12/09 2 stream wade

Here's a confluence of the mighty Wabash river and a smaller tributary:

Literally, no visibility in the Wabash. After 3" of rain in the last 7 days, most of the state was blown out mud water.

I looked for streams with small drainage areas in square miles, high gradients, and plenty of elevation. Guessing the water would be clear enough to fish. The first creek is seen above. Visibility was close to 3'! Day was sunny. The stream was full of rock and boulder. Once we got away from the Wabash, there wasn't any silt. Even runoff into the creek came filtered through a swamp! There was very little in the way of slow current anywhere on the stream. We picked up a fish here and there, almost entirely on crankbaits. One per hole. All were 12-16.5" and chunky. The smallies fought like devils in the current. I promise to get pics as I'll be heading back Tuesday.

We fished 3 hours and headed out to a new small favorite from last year that produced multiple 19" smallmouth bass. Mike wanted to get back there.

The fish in this stream didn't want anything to do with crankbaits. We finally hit a large pool and slammed crazed smallies left and right around 8pm on 5" flukes. These fish also fought like mad in the strong current.

Neither Mike nor I had any idea those streams would be in that great of shape. It makes sense. No man made drains sending all the water off parking lots into the creeks. No farm tiles up against the streams. Too much elevation and therefore wooded buffer strips to protect against erosion. Clear water. Good fishing. Imagine how good the fishing could be if our rivers and creeks didn't ever muddy up!

We only fished about 5.25 hours in total. Lots of driving and walking between bass holding spots. I've now found a couple places to go catch smallmouth when all the gauged streams are blown out. Truly a light bulb moment.

Stream 2 never got 3' deep. The fish adapt. These large rocks you see are cover and hiding places. I nailed a bunch of good ones by drifting a 5" fluke under them in the current.

BT 18 (16.5, 5- 15" 5-14")
MC 7

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sharp hook test

Sharp hooks make a huge difference in smallmouth bass fishing.
Whenever I miss or lose a fish I should have caught, it usually comes down to two things: trying to do too much at once, or a bent/dull hook.

Both are controllable. The first is what most anglers concentrate on. A lot of mistakes can be made up for if you always have the sharpest hooks.

The first thing to check is to see if your hook is sharp. Most hook manufacturers provide you with a very sharp hook right out of the package, its well worth checking because many do not. Check and see if your hook is sharp, gently draw the point of the hook across your fingernail. If the point digs in and leaves a mark it is sharp. If the hook does not dig in to your nail then you need to spend a few seconds sharpening it or you risk not getting a good solid deep hookset, often making the difference between “hooking” and actually “landing” your fish.

This is especially so with treble hooked lures. The competing directions of pull and line force point can serve to lose you that fish if the treble points don't dig deep! Needle sharp here or prepare for heartbreak.

How to sharpen your hook:

Firmly hold your hook

Draw your file across the barb toward the point. Repeat this stroke several times while making sure you hold the file at the same angle each time.

Repeat the same strokes on the other side.

Make a few final strokes on the bottom of the point. This will form a triangular point.

I carry extra Gamakatsu trebles in size 4 and 6 for quick on stream changeout. With topwater lures like Sammy and crankbaits it makes all the difference.

Good luck

Edited to add- Always down towards the hook point. Imagine the microscopic 'burs' in the metal you are creating. By going up the metal you actually are making it easier for these burs to catch on fish skin retarding hook penetration. By going down, the burs will be in the opposite direction of penetration. Similar to the direction of the barbs.

Also, remember many chemically treated hooks like Gamakatsu lose their metal coating when you sharpen them. Once you sharpen chemically treated hooks they maybe should just be discarded or treated as a normal brand.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More German Brews-Köstrizter Schwarzbeir and Gaffel Kölsch

Köstritzer Schwarzbeir: (Black Lager)
Excellent malty, smokey, surprisingly light, and smooth drinking. Blacker than night! Claims to be the beer with the black head and blond soul. Fitting. Get some.

The opposite end of the color spectrum is Gaffel's Kölsch. Kölsch is a type of beer only brewed in Köln (Cologne), Germany. Crisp, refreshing, like champagne minus any sweetness. An excellent beer for summer after cutting the grass or for people who think they don't like beer. Get some.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bigger Baits Equal bigger Smallmouth Bass

Most of the time for me, bigger smallmouth bass are attracted to bigger food. Only stands to reason the meal better be worth the energy spent! Now when I say bigger baits, I mean bigger baits compared to what most people throw on average for smallmouth bass.

For some reason, the average fisherman believes smallmouths are snackers. Throw a 2" or 3" grub and you'll catch a lot of fish. A lot of small fish. Throw a bigger bait near bigger fish and presto! More big bass.

I guess this is a good thing. Novices don't need to be taking smallies home in buckets/stringers. They don't throw close enough to cover or throw big enough baits to regularly bring out the big smallmouth bass.

Now, when I say bigger baits, let's not get crazy. I'm not throwing 7" swimbaits- yet. Just bigger than average. I've found a nice niche of what will catch numbers and size. Someday I may be headed down the big fish only route. Not yet.

Get the idea?

Most bigger baits can really be hurled. On any small-medium size stream the bass hear you coming. The longer you can throw, the better chance you have of presenting to unspooked bass. It's also fun dropping a big 4.5" tube down into a log jam .

Try it, you'll be surprised how many dinks you can catch too.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hot Date with an Aqua Seal Tube

Recently, my breathable waders have developed leaks. I've been slowly filling up my wading boots with water. Now I am very resistant to cold, wet, and hot. Wet feet sucks. Enough is enough. I tried a pair of Mike's breathables that also leaked.

Finally, broke down over the weekend and bought aqua seal with accelerator. Pretty much took half the weekend and they are ugly as all hell. Pinhole leaks, small tears, and wearing seams. Hopefully, got them all

The waders take a beating in the walks through the woods to wintering holes. Those green pricker branches, Hawthorne trees, rose bushes, barbed wire...well you get the picture.

So the two pairs are ready for testing. Since I opened the tube of AS, I might as well try and fix my neoprenes and 2007 breathables- that's a project.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

An Offering from the River Gods.

So we're out on a stream somewhere and "K" is having a time with his flyrod and wind. A walk back to the car to retrieve a spinning rod is a mile to get back. We decide to go up to an upstream bend, when K nearly steps on a full rod and reel combo complete with line laying in the river. LMAO. Next thing I know it's operating . Then he's catching fish on Swamp Thing's rig........

The ah, spool wouldn't oscillate:

After thanking the river for it's gift, the river swallowed it back up.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chatterfizzle 4/1/2009: Another Couple Pig Smallmouth bass

Got on the stream by 11:30am to find it a green stain with visibility about 2'. The sun was warming things up nicely. I had to know if fish were still up in Riffleville feeding.

Because of the stain, I thought I'd try a white chatterbait of my own making. On the third cast, the bait stopped as if hit by a freight train. I was casually casting into some shallower, steep run on the way to my riffle when the fish hit. It dogged me in current, but was hooked solid. I finally landed the fish, it was another 20 1/4" smallmouth bass!

When I finally got to the head of the riffle/riprap, I quickly nabbed another 15.5"er on the chatterbait when it fell down a dropoff in direct current. I tossed a tube into a nearby swirling eddie and got bit 7 times landing 6 fish 13-15.75". The second was this 19"er. The fish was followed to me by another large fish. Funny, the bass ignored my crankbait tosses inbetween fish.

I waded upstream with the chatter hitting a couple 16"ers off a fast current seam. 2 more smallmouth off a laydown. When I moved above the hole, I hit 4 in 4 casts on the white chatterbait 13-14" a total of 5 from that spot.

The rest of the wade the sun came out and bass would only hit tubes. All the fish landed were in the 13-14" range. Seemed like the bite died down when sun got overhead, so I left. Not one dink, everything was 13" or more. They were tearing up the chatterbait with stained water.

4 hours 19 SMB (20.25", 19", 2-16", 3 15-15-.75")